GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (May 5, 2014) — On May 6, voters in Grand Rapids will be heading to the polls to decide if an expiring city income tax should be extended for another 15 years.
The money, according to the ballot, will pay to repair the city’s crumbling streets and may pass the burden of paying for sidewalk repairs from homeowners to the city.
It’s that last part that has the attention of homeowner Dick Mitchell, who lives on Fuller Avenue on the city’s Northeast side. The city has begun a sidewalk project on his property, and all he can do is wait to pay for it.
Mitchell said he received a letter from the city last October which said a portion of the sidewalk had to be replaced at his expense. “I’m not the only one in the neighborhood,” he said. “There are five or six other ones in the neighborhood, the same thing.”
“They sent me a thing in the mail that the cement is bulged up because they planted a tree several years ago, and it grew, of course,” Mitchell said. “The roots made the sidewalk pop up, and now they want to charge me 400 and some dollars just to take care of it, and it’s their tree.”
When he found out about the vote that would make sidewalk repairs part of the city’s responsibility, he was a little frustrated at the timing. He said he plans to vote ‘No’ on the proposal.
“If I have to pay for this why should I pay extra money for the next 15 years to help pay for everything else?”
According to the ballot, the city would only take responsibility of sidewalk maintenance if voters living and working in Grand Rapids agree to continue paying 1.5 percent of their income to the city.
For people who work in the city but live elsewere, the income tax rate is .75 percent. The ballot reads that the money will be dedicated to street, road, and sidewalk repairs.
Some of the voters we spoke with seemed to be on board with the portion of the proposal that repairs the streets. Angela Bun said she will be voting for the proposal, “The roads are horrible,” she said. “I tear up my car every day coming downtown, even coming to the post office. And if they are going to fix the roads and do the right thing, I’m all for it.”
Another voter, Tara Belstra, also would happy to see the ballot succeed. “I feel bad for the ones that don’t have the money, that can’t afford to fix the car problems and lose their jobs because the car is broke down because of the roads.”
The polls are open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday.